I will fully agree about not shooting the messenger. NWS does the best they can with the available data and usually their best is very good but weather is still not an exact science.
TV weather people sometimes do seem to get a bit overexcited about a storm as a big story.
As to the private weather services I was a EMA director for 27 years and my city subscribed to a private weather service. What was the benefit to us? NWS provides forecast for larger general areas so has larger ranges for arrival times of the storm and precipitation e.g. "The storm will reach eastern Massachusetts between 4pm and 10pm and bring 6 to 12 inches of new snow"
Government agencies may have DPW workers who work 7 to 3 every day. We need to know whether to send people home and have them come back at 10 or keep them on duty paying overtime the whole time. If you send them home they might not get back through the snow. Keep 200 truck drivers on overtime with no snow and you have spent a lot of money and you don't need them until an hour before the storm to start your salt laydown. The private services can localize more and provide narrower windows for storm start, better estimates of accumulation and precipitation rate. I know my DPW people thought the private service was money well spent to save the city money.
Funny story about forecast errors. Several years ago I was at a NWS training session for EMA directors from coastal Massachusetts. A big t-storm arrived just before the start time and then the head warning meteorologist for the region arrived soaked to the skin, no rainjacket, no umbrella. He arrived laughing about himself getting caught in the rain and made the point about not being perfect.
--- In email@example.com, Kim Noyes <kimnoyes@...> wrote:
> Achtung Gruppe!
> This has been on my mind for awhile and I have been waiting for the right
> time to speak and the right words to share.
> There has been a lot of talk here on this list for some time about SoCal
> weather forecasts that don't pan out and disparaging remarks about the
> performance of the forecasters.
> The attitude seems to be that the forecasters are incompetent fools who
> failed at their otherwise easy jobs.
> These comments seem to be based upon the false assumption that weather
> forecasting is easy and is an exact science if in the hands of competent
> This could not be further from the truth.
> Weather forecasting will always be suffused with a significant degree of
> More so in a region bordered by ocean to the west from whence the weather
> comes and upon which there are few weather reporting stations which are
> essential to accurate weather forecasts.
> In fact, west of our coastline the only weather reporting stations are on
> buoys and weather reports from ships.
> Our weather forecasters are for the most part intelligent and well-educated
> people doing the very best they can with what they have to work.
> Remember, too, that they have to hedge their bets and error on the side of
> caution and if in doubt over-forecast as opposed to under-forecast.
> Nobody gets hurt from being overly alarmed and overly cautious about the
> weather but they certainly can be harmed from being inadequately warned and
> It is a fact of nature that the transverse ranges of Southern California are
> not only a geographical boundary but seem to function as a sort of
> meteorological boundary as well.
> Weak to marginal storms coming from the north seem to not hold their own
> south of this east-west trend of mountains which are the metaphoric
> "crumpled up fender" of the Pacific Plate colliding with the North American
> Plate at the Big Bend in the San Andreas Fault Zone.
> Only the more vigorous storms coming from the north or storms coming more
> from the west or southwest (in other words, subtropical moisture) seem to
> make it to Southern California to drop significant rain.
> While it is true that not a few LA TV market news outlets employ "bimbage"
> to read the weather as "eye candy" to attract the age 18-36 male
> demographic, even these silicone-implanted talking heads are reading
> forecasts created elsewhere by professional weather-forecasting agencies
> staffed by real weather forecasters.
> The one fault with the current system that I find is that often these
> private weather agencies such as The Weather Channel, in contrast to NOAA's
> National Weather Service, are based outside the local area and lack a long
> experience with the nuances and complexities of our local weather.
> I would trust a forecast by NWS Los Angeles/Oxnard way more than anything
> from The Weather Channel or any news outlet employing a private weather
> forecasting agency not based in California to generate their TV weather
> I feel we've belabored the issue of weather forecasts that don't pan out and
> how much the local weather forecasters suck to the point of beating a dead
> horse so let's cool it, gang.
> Acknowledging on the DISCUSSION list something to the effect that "thank god
> that mega-storm didn't pan out or bad things would have happened" is fine
> but let's stop cheap-shoting our local weather forecasters.
> We certainly don't pick on Cal-Tech for not warning us every time there is a
> damaging Southern California earthquake not preceded by a Level A alert.
> Kim Patrick Noyes
> Check out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/californiadisasters/
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